EDITORIAL: Shifting the cost of drunk driving

The onus is on the individual to defend wrongful drinking and driving charges

When B.C. launched Canada’s toughest drinking and driving laws in 2010, not everyone embraced the initiative with open arms.

A year after police were given powers to suspend a licence for 90 days on the spot and impound the vehicle for 30 days, with little recourse for appeal, a judge ruled the laws went too far and violated the Charter of Rights.

Last May, the provincial government eased up on those regulations, slightly, and gave people a better chance to fight what are significant financial penalties for drinking and driving.

The Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles is reviewing 1,200 cases of people caught under the immediate roadside prohibition (IRP) system just prior to the laws being thrown out in 2011.

But for everyone else, the tough rules are the law of the land (at least until another constitutional challenge) – blow a “fail” and you’ll lose your licence for 90 days, your car for 30, be forced to install an ignition interlock system, take a driver education program, and face fines. All told, the fines and fees add up to about $4,040 at minimum.

An IRP appears punitive on the driver, and to a large degree it is. But the crux of the system, besides acting as a deterrent, is that it removes drinking and driving from the criminal justice system.

The courts in B.C. had to deal with thousands fewer drinking and driving cases last year. Instead of those criminal cases gumming up an already calcified court system and costing taxpayer money, the financial burden has been downloaded to the accused drunk driver.

Being criminally prosecuted for drinking and driving certainly comes with financial penalties, the potential for jail time and a criminal record, but due to the overwhelming caseloads in many jurisdictions, there is always a chance that the case could drag out and eventually be thrown out of court due to a lack of a speedy trial.

The IRP process, “immediate” being the key word, provides a summary punishment and puts the onus on the accused drunk driver to appeal the fines and penalties.

The pendulum of law, it seems, has distinctly swung to the side of law and order rather than the assumption of innocence, in terms of drinking and driving. Statistics over the past decade show that drivers in B.C. weren’t getting the message. Perhaps they will now.

Just Posted

Thief steals cash donations from Saanich church

Police investigate an overnight break-in and theft at a McKenzie Avenue church

VIDEO: ‘Life-saving’ Fix-A-Heart campaign hits $40,000 two weeks in

Canadian Tire on track to surpass 2018 donation of $41,445

Study shows Oak Bay’s dwindling population is rapidly aging

Housing Needs Study says Oak Bay facing a shortfall of 349 bedrooms

More rowers come forward with complaints about coach, criticism of UVic

Barney Williams is accused of verbal abuse and harassment

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

B.C. SPCA seizes dogs chained up outside among scrap metal, garbage

Shepherd-breed dogs were living in ‘deplorable conditions.’

POLL: Do you have a real or artificial Christmas tree?

The lights are up, holiday shoppers are bustling through the streets and… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Dec. 10

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. plane crash victim identified; witnesses describe ‘explosion’

He was a flight instructor, charter pilot and owned an airstrip before leaving Alberta

BC Hydro offers tips as collisions with power poles increase

Region with the largest spike in collisions was the Lower Mainland at 16 per cent

RCMP must bury three sex mannequins found in Manning Park

Police tasked with ensuring the mannequins were completely disposed of

Most Read